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Steven is an associate in Balch & Bingham's Birmingham office. Steven's practice focuses on complex litigation. He has practiced in both state in federal courts across the southeast and at the trial and appellate levels. He has represented lenders in a variety of contexts, including the Truth-in-Lending Act, Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), and other federal statutes and regulations. Before joining Balch & Bingham, Steven clerked for the Hon. Emmett R. Cox of the Eleventh Circuit and for the Hon. Virginia Emerson Hopkins of the Northern District of Alabama.

In Williams v. First Advantage LNS Screening Solutions, Inc., 947 F.3d 735 (11th Cir. Jan. 9, 2020), the plaintiff recovered a jury verdict under the FCRA for $250,000 of compensatory damages and $3.3 Million of punitive damages.  The defendant was a criminal background report provider.  Because of various mistakes and procedures, the plaintiff’s information was mismatched and inaccurately lead potential employers to believe he had a criminal background.  Liability was asserted primarily under 15 U.S.C. § 1681e(b), which requires CRAs to follow “reasonable procedures to ensure maximum possible accuracy.”

Continue Reading Eleventh Circuit Affirms FCRA Punitive Damage Award But Reduces Ratio to 4:1

Earlier this week, two Alabama businesses sued their insurers for refusing to pay losses related to COVID-19. The first lawsuit, Wagner Shoes v. Auto-Owners Insurance Co., No. 7:20-cv-465 (N.D. Ala. Apr. 6, 2020), was brought by a shoe store in Tuscaloosa. The second suit, Ollie Irene v. Farmers Insurance Exchange, No. 01-CV-2020-901319 (Jefferson County Cir. Court April 7, 2020), was filed by nationally recognized Mountain Brook restaurant, Ollie Irene.

Continue Reading First Alabama lawsuits filed over COVID-19 insurance denial

In September 2018, the Alabama Supreme Court issued an opinion in GHB Constr. and Dev. Co., Inc. v. West Alabama Bank and Trust, No. 1170484, that caused considerable concern for Alabama lenders. The Court held that future-advance mortgages do not come into existence until funds are actually advanced regardless of when the mortgage was recorded. Last Friday, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed its September 2018 opinion and held that the priority of a future-advance mortgage is based on the date of recording, not when the lender advances funds. A link to the March 2019 decision can be located here. This decision should ease the uncertainty created by the Court’s September 2018 decision.

Continue Reading Alabama Supreme Court changes course on validity of future-advance mortgages

Last month, the Alabama Supreme Court bypassed the statute of frauds and held that, even though one party had clear record title, the dispute over ownership should go to trial. While the opinion purported to apply “well-settled” Alabama law, it is a strong reminder that the statute of frauds does not apply to all real estate transactions and that record title holders may have to defend against an oral contract in certain situations.

Continue Reading Alabama Supreme Court: Statute of frauds does not apply when seller deeds real property directly to lender in purchase-money transaction.

A recent Supreme Court decision may allow defendants to avoid lawsuits in distant courts that have little or no connection to the lawsuit, especially in cases (such as mass actions) where the claims of out-of-state plaintiffs are joined with those of in-state plaintiffs.  In Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, San Francisco Cty., — U.S. —, 137 S. Ct. 1773, 1775 (2017), the Supreme Court held that a California state court did not have personal jurisdiction to adjudicate claims against a drug company, at least for the plaintiffs who were not California residents and who had not alleged a connection between the alleged injury and the state of California.  While law school civil procedure professors spend weeks covering personal jurisdiction, the defense rarely appears in real-world practice because most plaintiffs’ attorneys are smart enough to avoid a fight over jurisdiction.  Thus, defendants may give this defense only cursory consideration at the outset of a lawsuit.  Following Bristol-Myers, defendants may want to more carefully consider the personal jurisdiction defense as a way to avoid litigation in a hostile forum.

Continue Reading Defendants should consider personal jurisdiction defense following Supreme Court decision, especially when the claims of out-of-state plaintiffs are joined with those of in-state plaintiffs.

Alabama law permits the creation of public corporations known as “improvement districts,” which can then issue bonds that are similar to bonds issued by a municipal corporation. These bonds can be used to finance improvements within the district. In Aliant Bank v. Four Star Investments, Inc., the Alabama Supreme Court allowed claims against the directors of one of these improvement districts to go forward despite claims of immunity. The Court also allowed certain fraud claims to go forward against the directors as well as other related individuals and entities. In addition to authorizing lenders to bring suit, the opinion also serves as a strong reminder that lenders should monitor their collateral and promptly investigate any signs of misconduct.


Continue Reading Alabama Supreme Court: Lender can sue directors of a public improvement district for negligence, breach of fiduciary duty

In a victory for defendants, the Eleventh Circuit recently agreed that a mere procedural violation—the kind of injury that has become the favorite of the plaintiffs’ bar—is insufficient to confer Article III standing. More specifically, the Eleventh Circuit concluded that a certified return receipt will satisfy a lender’s obligation under Regulation X to provide written

Last month, the Eleventh Circuit rejected a plaintiff’s bid to keep her class action in state court even though CAFA’s local controversy exception would have required a remand. In Blevins v. Aksut, No. 16-11585, — F.3d —, (11th Cir. Mar. 1, 2017), the Court held that the “local controversy” exception to CAFA jurisdiction does